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Google+ strategy = good business

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As a social media manager and digital marketing strategist, I have not placed much emphasis for my clients to participate on the Google+ platform. However, I feel we are now at point where businesses should take the platform seriously and incorporate it into their social media strategy.

In response to the staggering growth of Facebook, Google has made multiple attempts to join the social media arena. Remember Orkut and Google Friend Connect? How about Google Buzz and Wave? All of these attempts failed to gain any significant traction against the 800-pound Facebook gorilla.

Refusing to be discouraged, and eager to tap into the engaged, social media audience with their deep pockets, Google licked its wounds, learned from its mistakes, and began development of its Google+ platform. Google+ launched to the general public just over two years ago. The platform has rapidly evolved into a feature-rich, multimedia savvy social media experience.

Since Google pushes the Google+ platform to all new Gmail and Google account holders, in the past, the number of users, in my opinion, seemed greatly inflated.

However, as of the end of October, Google reported that 300 million Google+ members are now actively participating in the platform — up from 190 million active users just 6 months ago. In fact, Google+ now has more than twice as many active users as Twitter, its nearest competitor. It’s clear Google+ is gaining traction.

Google+ has learned from other social media platforms and incorporated some really nice tools for businesses to interact with their audience. In addition to standard features like hashtags, Google has included new features unavailable on other networks.

For example, unlike Facebook, where there is a clear line drawn preventing business fan pages from connecting with their fans profiles, Google+ business pages can add their followers in circles (organize them into groups) so they can learn more about their interests. (It is still up to the individual what information they choose to share and with whom.)

Google has also incorporated Google Hangouts into their business pages. This allows a business to create a live video chat environment where it can directly interact with its followers. This could be used for anything from a customer service channel to a virtual press conference.

While the growing, active audience is a big reason to take notice, perhaps more importantly, we’re talking about Google, the undisputed owner of the search engine and business directory market. While Bing has made some inroads in the past few months (likely due to Bing being installed as the default search engine on new PCs), Google still owns nearly 67 percent of the search engine market.

Google is the leader in pay-per-click advertising revenue, and has invested heavily in developing its Google Local (formerly Google Places) platform.

Google’s intent is to migrate all of its platforms into Google+. This migration is well under way. As a business, if you create a new account, you create a Local profile. Once you verify your business through a phone call, you then receive a Google+ business page that is tied to the same account.

Look at our Google+ page as an example. All of our Google information, including our contact information, reviews and social media posts, are all part of the same page.

So what does this mean in layman’s terms? If you create posts for your business on Google+, they are going to start showing up in Google search results. It’s logical to also assume that these posts will affect your Google search engine placement. And since your Google+ business page is linked to your website, it should affect your overall search engine presence.

As this integrated platform matures, it will provide unprecedented opportunities for businesses to both engage with and advertise to their audience. Imagine combining the proven results and reach of Google AdWords with the granular controls of Facebook Ads and it gives you an idea of the potential. And believe me, Google is well aware of this, and the huge potential revenue boost it will generate.

Will Google+ threaten Facebook’s dominance in the long run? I think the jury’s still out. But I also think it’s time for businesses to seriously consider developing a presence on Google+.

Russ Alman is the director of World Digital Media, a division of World Publishing. He can be reached at 661-5204 or by email at